Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Mending

Project 1, part 3 – Pinning, Mending, and Musing (part 1, part 2 here)

The tanchozuru, or red-crowned crane, is a symbol of longevity. The pines symbolize vitality and strength.

I’m back for part 3 of the Meiji Era kimono restoration project to cover the actual mending process! I spent approximately 1 hour pinning things into place in advance of sewing – I’ve found that I am far more excited to sit down to a project if it’s in a “ready to go” state as opposed to having to start my sewing session by cutting patterns, pinning, or other “prep” work. I had already pinned all the loose seams, and just had to add the cut and pressed piece of replacement silk lining.

I’ve not yet joined the cult of basting, so for now pinning does just fine for me!
Securing the lining to the outer sleeve material without it showing on the front took a lot of patience!
The original lining was also loose inside, and needed to be repaired as well as attached to the outer sleeve material.
No one is perfect…I failed to catch the outer sleeve fabric, and had to remove and redo a solid 8″ of stitching. Oops!
Finally, the entire outer seam of the damaged sleeve was repaired!

This part of the mending process took approximately four hours; it was very relaxing! I’ve found that I love taking photographs during my sewing time – it keeps me from crunching up too long in the same position, as I have to stand to get my camera, so I take the opportunity to stretch, drink water, and change podcasts if need be. I do need to remember to keep my notebook nearby to jot down notes, however!

The replacement lining silk definitely isn’t a perfect match. The weave is smoother (possibly machine-woven, as opposed to hand-woven?), and finer, and the color is more toward the red end of the spectrum whereas the original lining has a more orange tint. It’s possible that I will keep searching for either loose antique fabric, or a damaged kimono of the same era that could provide “donor” lining, but for me it’s more crucial that I get this garment structurally sound and wearable than that I get a perfect color match or exact historical authenticity. That’s a personal decision – every person who does historical costuming or restoration has to make their own! This is the right choice for me, as someone who aims to wear all their vintage/antique clothes, but I would never judge someone who preferred a different mode of restoration. I hope all types of sewers and historical enthusiasts feel welcome here!

One last bout of pinning…

After four hours I was starting to lose focus, so I decided to call it a day once I finished mending the outer edges of the sleeve. I pinned the replacement lining fully into place so that I’ll be all ready to go – I just need to sew that, mend the hem and collar, and sew some snaps into the collar to make it easier to secure the eri-shin (collar stiffener) when dressing. So join me next time when I will finish the project and preview the beautiful antique obi I’ve chosen to pair with this for the full outfit!

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Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Materials

Project 1, part 2 – the Materials and Plan (part 1 here)

Seriously, just look at this. Gorgeous!

Welcome back to the Meiji Era kimono restoration project! Today in part 2 I wanted to share the materials I’ve obtained to complete the restoration.

Well, material, singular, I guess.

I already have plenty of thread; I have some vintage green and red cotton threads in the right colors. I’ve heard that one should mend with a weaker thread than the base material (to allow the mended seam to break at the thread, rather than ripping more of the material), but I’ve also heard that one should match the thread to the material, or always use silk thread so it’s less visible… I’m going to be honest, I have a lot of thread, and since I had it in the right shade I’m going with what I have. Japanese silk didn’t tend to be weighted like Victorian-era silks from the US or Europe, so there’s a much lower risk of shatter or other damage due to using modern materials here.

I did, however, need replacement silk. So I headed to Shinei, one of my favorite sources for vintage and antique kimono and related accessories, and searched for red kimono silk. Lucky me! Only 500 yen (approximately $5 USD) for a small bolt of antique scarlet silk. I fired up Zen Market, my trusty shopping service, and they were able to acquire it for me in short order.

(Not familiar with shopping services? They allow you to purchase things from another country that don’t ship outside that country. I give Zen Market the link to the item I want, and they purchase it on my behalf and have it shipped to their warehouse. I pay them for the item, domestic shipping, a small service fee, and then the international shipping, and they send it to me – usually by DHL these days, since EMS is currently not operating due to COVID-19 limiting international flights. I use Zen Market for commercial transactions, and TenshiShop for person-to-person or in-store transactions!)

Not a bad match – it’s actually better in person!

The silk is a really close match. It’s even a little closer in person, but I’m still getting the hang of using Lightroom and my husband’s camera so the picture doesn’t quite do it justice. More importantly than the color, actually, is the weight – it’s an almost perfect match for the weight and drape of the extant silk lining in my kimono. This means it won’t feel weird when I wear it, and the sleeve will drape correctly rather than being weighed down by something that’s too heavy or stiff.

The next step will be to patch the sleeve, and perform all the other outstanding mending needs, so look forward to the next stage of this project!

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Meiji Era Kimono Restoration: The Beginning

Project 1, part 1 – Origin Story and Starting Point

Detail of the pine and red-crowned crane motif

My first project to share with you all is the restoration of this beautiful green Meiji Era irotomesode kimono.

Isn’t she lovely?

Restoration means different things to different people, and honestly means different things to me depending on the item in question. In this case, my aim is to repair all the ripped seams, replace the missing/shredded sleeve lining in one sleeve, and mend as many of the small holes/tears in the collar and hems as possible, with the aim of being able to (carefully) wear this beautiful piece of history. I believe clothes are meant to be worn if at all possible, and I love dressing up!

I acquired this kimono in 2020 from Kyoto Art & Antiques in Seattle. It’s a silk irotomesode (colored tomesode), with a length of 144cm and a wingspan of 130cm. It has 5 mon, or crests, which are the Omodaka, or three-leaf arrowhead design.

Information about this crest can be found here and here.

This is quite a formal kimono – one that nowadays would likely only be worn by a guest at a wedding. Tomesode are considered suitable for married women – and this is a women’s kimono, not a men’s. It is from the Meiji Era (~1868 to 1912) in Japan. How do I know this, one might ask? Actually, that’s a really good question. Kimono, unlike Western clothes, don’t change their cut or styling very quickly, so dating them can be quite difficult. Naturally, I do trust the auction house I purchased it from, however, there are a couple of other indicators.

Interior of the kimono.

The red silk lining generally marks it as a pre-war artifact. Additionally, I’ve been able to find some other auctions such as this one that are similar in appearance to mine that are also dated to the Meiji Era. Based on the relatively good condition and some similar kimono, my guess is that mine is likely from somewhere between 1890-1910.

So, what’s wrong with it?

Well, this to start…

True story: I sat down with this not long after I purchased it to pin up all the ripped seams in anticipation of some light mending duties. When I got to one of the sleeves I got very confused – none of the seams matched up! Finally I turned the whole thing inside out, and realized that part of the red silk lining had been cut away from the sleeve at some point during its life. They had left part along the edge, so I’m uncertain why it was done – did they need the fabric for some other reason? Did it get badly damaged somehow? It’s one of the many things I adore about antique clothes – the mystery!

Additionally, there are some small moth holes on the collar, and some frayed areas on the hem.


Tune in next time, when I’ll share my adventures in getting matching silk, and how I’ll be approaching the project!

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Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing

Stay a while, and listen…

Welcome to Mukashi no Sewing! I’m Rae (which you probably already know if I invited you here – but if not, welcome!), and this blog is where I’ll be sharing my adventures in historical sewing, crafting, and restoration.

Mukashi literally means “olden days” or “past/former” in Japanese, but it’s also what storytellers start their fairy tales with – so you might say that this blog is really called “Once Upon a Time Sewing.” There’s a series of Japanese sewing/craft books called 乙女のソーイング – Otome no Sewing, or “Sewing for Maidens,” so perhaps you could also read this as “Sewing for the Olden Days.”

What kind of things might you look forward to? How about cooking a medieval feast, restoring a delicate Meiji-era kimono, and sewing a 50s-inspired sheath dress? I’ll be focusing on sewing and clothing restoration, but I love to cook and bake, so you’ll see those from time to time as well.

I have been interested in historical dress (and to a certain extent, recreation) since I was a teenager, and I’ve begun this blog as a way to keep my family and friends all over the world up to date on the fun things I’m doing. When I’m not sewing or cooking I’m at the dojo, playing video games, or spending time with my husband and two rescue greyhounds. I hope that everyone who joins me here will have fun and learn with me – as I am by no means an expert! Thank you so much for stopping by, and I look forward to creating beautiful things for you to enjoy.

Subscribe so you never miss a post! New adventures in history and sewing every Tuesday.